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  1. ITV Report

RMT strike: Serious disruption threatened as up to 2,000 rail workers walk out

Passengers on Merseyrail trains will be among those affected by the strike action. Credit: PA

Up to 2,000 workers at three rail companies are on strike in separate disputes over staffing, threatening some of the worst disruption since the industry was privatised.

Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union at Northern, Merseyrail and Southern Railway have walked out for 24 hours in a growing row over the role of conductors.

The union mounted picket lines outside stations, saying they were receiving support from the public for its campaign to keep a safety-critical guard on trains.

More than half of services on Merseyrail and Northern will be cancelled, while Southern said it aimed to run most of its 2,200 trains.

Why is the strike action taking place?

  • The RMT says Northern failed to give assurances about the future role of guards, with members voting 83.6% in favour of strike action;
  • Members are also striking at Merseyrail, which is set to get a fleet of 52 new trains that will not have guards;
  • The company failed to obtain a court injunction last week to stop the strike and then offered talks;
  • General secretary Mick Cash says up to a quarter of fare revenue on Merseyrail was being used to pay for dividends of around £14 million a year;
  • It is the RMT's 30th strike day in its dispute with Southern over plans to make trains driver-only-operated (DOO) - the longest running in the transport industry.

The RMT revealed it was considering legal options over "failure" of the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) to protect the rights of disabled passengers on Southern.

Officials said their concerns arise from reports from members and passengers that disabled passengers on Southern are being treated less favourably than other passengers as a result of the company's decision to end the guarantee of a guard on new driver only services.

A number of Southern services won't be running on Monday. Credit: PA

The union said the ORR has not made a completed assessment of the effects on disabled passengers of removing the guarantee of a guard prior to Southern implementing its changes at the start of the year.

General secretary Mick Cash said: "It is obviously the case that if a disabled passenger once had the guarantee of a guard on their service and that guarantee is withdrawn then the disabled passenger has been disadvantaged.

"Far from being about modernisation, driver only trains turns the clock back on the rights of disabled and older passengers."

Disruption on Monday

  • Northern: Services will be extremely busy, especially those between Leeds and Manchester. Northern says it will be running around 40% of its services, 980 trains, between 7am and 7pm.
  • Merseyrail: A reduced service will be running. Trains will run every half an hour from 7am until 7pm. All services will be six car trains. No trains will run before 7am and after 7pm.
  • Southern: A number of Southern train services will not run, including between Clapham Junction and Milton Keynes and Leatherhead and Guildford. There will be a limited service between London Bridge and Brighton.

What do the train companies say?

Northern will be running around 40% of train services on Monday. Credit: PA
  • Northern

A spokesman for Northern said: "Our modernisation proposals are still in the early stages so it is disappointing that RMT is taking strike action.

"There is lots of time to talk and agree how we modernise the way we provide customer service.

"As part of our proposals we are prepared to offer guarantees on jobs and pay to our people."

  • Merseyrail

A spokesperson for Merseyrail said: "We have pledged to do everything we can to bring the dispute to a satisfactory and swift conclusion and are committed to continuing dialogue with the RMT.

"Industrial action relates to the new fleet of trains, coming into service during 2020, which will no longer require the role of guards due to the way the trains will be operated. However, around 60 on board customer service positions will be created.

"Ensuring passengers feel safe and secure continues to be the number one priority."

  • Southern

A Southern spokesman said: "What the RMT want is to see trains cancelled if the on-board supervisor is not available. That would disadvantage everyone, including the disabled.

"There are more staff on trains who are now more focused on assisting passengers than ever.

"We are committed to making our services more accessible and have a clear system in place to help disabled passengers and those with restricted mobility make and complete their journey, safely and on time."

Where can I find further travel advice?

The rail companies' websites contain extensive revised timetables as well as useful information for making alternative travel arrangements.